Cutting through the bullshit.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Crossword politics

Palestinian journalist for the Melbourne Age, Maher Mughrabi, wrote today that

On May 20, [Australian] Prime Minister John Howard will receive the Jerusalem Prize from the State Zionist Council of Victoria, the Zionist Federation of Australia and Israel's World Zionist Organisation "for his support of the Jewish community and Israel".

In his piece, he makes some interesting points.

To say, then, that Israel is "a democracy in good standing" is a bit like saying Philip Ruddock is a member of Amnesty International - as a statement of fact, it leaves too much out.

What’s left out of the claim about Ruddock is that, as Australia’s Minister for Immigration from 1996 to 2003, he presided over the policy of incarcerating all asylum seekers arriving without required documentation (mandatory detention) in remote concentration camps and the refoulement (return) of many Afghan and other refugees to their countries of origin against their will, against sound advice, and in some cases, as it transpires, to their doom. These policies are in direct conflict with Amnesty International positions. In fact, Amnesty asked that he remove his AI lapel badge when speaking about immigration issues.

In an interview with the Australian ABC’s Radio National’s Lateline in 2002, AI Secretary General Irene Khan said, ‘…the policies that he is carrying out in this Government are clearly policies which have been criticised by Amnesty…He is a member of Amnesty, but he does not represent Amnesty’.

As for what’s left out of the claim about Israeli democracy, Mughrabi explains

If you want to know how much, read The Age's Saturday crossword. On March 31, it contained this clue: "What is the nationality of someone from Haifa? (7)"

The answer is "Israeli". It is also incorrect. You see, there is no such thing as Israeli nationality. In 1970, Israel's Supreme Court ruled that there was such a thing as Jewish nationality, and such a thing as Arab nationality, but not Israeli nationality. And while Israel's Arab citizens have the vote, the state - defined by law as Jewish - discriminates against them when it comes to immigration, state resources, where they can live and even who they can marry.

It is strangely appropriate, therefore, that Howard will receive his award at a function of the Jewish National Fund, which identifies itself as "the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners - Jewish people everywhere". Try imagining an Australian version of this: "The Aussie National Fund is the caretaker of the land of Australia, on behalf of its owners - Anglo-Celtic people everywhere."

See the problem? This formula makes Israel the land of many people who are not its citizens, and denies the land to many who are its citizens. Democracy? Not as Australians know it…

Of course it’s not democracy as Australians know it. Israel is Jewish and democratic. It’s a Jewish democracy, where Jews have democratic rights. And everyone in the Jewish democracy must genuflect to the oxymoron of the Jewish and democratic state, or, like Azmi Bishara, stand accused of treason. It’s one of those mysteries that otherwise apparently intelligent, rational, thoughtful people who understand things like that you can’t fight terrorism by invading Iraq or Lebanon somehow believe that such a thing is possible.

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